April is Parkinson’s Disease (PD) Awareness Month. As we continue to deal with COVID-19 in our community, we are sharing a guest blog by Mary Richardson, PT, Ann Brexa, OT, and Molli Karen, SLP of BCH Outpatient Rehabilitation to help those affected by Parkinson’s create a plan during this time.

April is Parkinson’s disease (PD) awareness month and this year’s theme is #Plan4 PD. PD is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects over 1 million Americans. Individuals with this disease can maintain a productive quality of life when using their resources, staying active and connecting within the community.

It is important to remember that living with PD requires individuals to have a plan in place to live well with this diagnosis. This might include any of the following tasks:

  • Develop a good understanding of your symptoms and how to manage them.
  • Meet others that have PD in a support group setting to discuss symptoms or learn more about the disease and research opportunities.
  • Scheduling to attend regular exercise classes to move better and improve cognitive function.
  • Participate in a singing group to improve voice and communication.
  • Following up with your primary care physician, neurologist, movement specialist or therapy rehab team.

Parkinson’s Disease and COVID-19

What happens to that plan when a global pandemic leaves you socially isolated at home? First, following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to limit social interactions, practice good hand hygiene, know the symptoms of COVID-19, wear a cloth face-covering in public settings and avoiding all non-essential travel is the right thing to do. This is particularly important if you live with a chronic disease and if you are an older adult.

During this time, you may feel frustrated, scared and lonely. But remember, you are not alone. Indeed, most of your best-laid plans have changed and you may feel your symptoms are more intense because of the stress and lack of routine. Now more than ever, you need a plan, not only for this time of social isolation but also for the future when we are again free to move about the community.

Suggestions from BCH Outpatient Rehabilitation

Here are a few suggestions from the BCH outpatient rehabilitation team to help during this time.

Functional Daily Activity:

Just because we are not able to go out into the community, it is important to maintain an active daily routine.

  • Remember the basics: consistent sleep schedule, good nutrition, exercise and hydration.
  • Manage your energy levels by taking rest breaks throughout the day.
  • Find alternative activities that keep your body and brain engaged and limit TV/screen time.
  • Clean out and declutter your living space as this will improve home safety and decrease distractions.
  • Learn to cook and/or try new recipes. The internet is a great resource to find new healthy recipes.
  • Plant a simple indoor garden or grow starter seeds.
  • Learn a basic dance step and practice it daily. Keep it simple and safe.
  • If you volunteer, contact the organization to see how you can help from home.

Physical Activity:

  • Take walks with family, enjoy nature sights and sound, or listen to music to help set your pace. Set goals to walk farther, more quickly, or while looking around. Try using trekking poles to improve stride length or arm swing.
  • Try something new by looking at various video platforms that provide exercises specific to PD. (i.e. yoga, Tai chi, stretching and strengthening). Remember to be safe when balancing in your home and always monitor for pain or discomfort.
  • Work in the yard cleaning up for Spring.
  • Dig out some of your old exercises from physical therapy and dust off that stationary bike or treadmill for days when the weather isn’t conducive to outdoor activity.
  • Have a friend or family member check in daily to see how you are doing with your exercise routine.

Communication:

  • If you cannot physically see friends or family, utilize technology as a source to connect with people (i.e. FaceTime, Zoom, or Facebook video calling).
  • Verbal communication is important for everyone’s physical and emotional health, but it is especially important for individuals with PD to continue using their communication skills for optimal health.
  • Make phone calls daily to friends or loved ones to stay connected if technology is not available.
  • Complete crossword puzzles, word searches, card games, etc. to give your brain some exercise.
  • Check all your medications. Take inventory of all medications and reorder any that are running low.
  • Write your medication list down. Write or print a list of all your medications (not just PD medications). Include medication name, strength, times taken, and dosages.
  • Have a "medical alert card" indicating you have PD available and keep it with you always.

Additional Resource Links:

Parkinson's Foundation Coronavirus Tips

Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson's

Parkinson Association of the Rockies

The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research